I’m typing this from the Michigan State University campus, and just finished a walk since I spent much of the day in the car. I was wearing my UConn Husky cap in hopes of encountering a Spartan basketball fan–hopefully a good-natured one since my Huskies recently knocked Michigan State out of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But no such luck. Our hotel is on the edge of the university golf course, and there were some crazy golfers out there even though there were still traces of snow here and there. Maybe not so crazy since I remember playing one spring in the Poconos where we established a temporary local rule: Free lifts from snow drifts.
Cold weather has been in the news of late, as various predictions are that the Great Lakes are frozen so extensively–surface area as well as ice depth–that this will have a decided impact on early season cropping, perhaps persisting into June (!). One crops consultant is recommending that farmers seriously consider swapping full season corn hybrids for earlier-maturing ones. Others aren’t as spooked, say that it’s too early to be making any changes in cropping plans. If there’s any impact it’s more likely to be closest to the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water. Adding to the confusion is that weather prognosticators say that there’s an even chance of warmer vs. cooler spring weather. (This way they can’t be wrong.)
Also of concern is what to do about winter cereals such as triticale that were planted with the intention of harvest just prior to planting corn. Even with “normal” weather this often results in planting corn later than ideal, but what will happen if corn planting time arrives and the winter cereals have just started to put on yield but are a couple of weeks from the recommended flag leaf harvest stage? How long should farmers wait before they decide to forgo a triticale crop and start to plant corn? What impact will a foot of triticale growth have on corn planting, since we know that triticale produces toxins that are at least somewhat allelopathic to corn? (Allelopathy is the ability of one plant species to produce chemicals harmful to another plant species.) I’m told that there was about 30,000 acres of triticale planted in NY State last fall, most of it with the intention of harvest in the coming month, more or less. I think we’ll wind up much wiser but perhaps also somewhat sadder by the time we’re on the other side of spring planting and spring forage harvest this year.